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Teaching ‘grit’ is bad for children, and bad for democracy | Aeon Ideas
"According to the grit narrative, children in the United States are lazy, entitled and unprepared to compete in the global economy. Schools have contributed to the problem by neglecting socio-emotional skills. The solution, then, is for schools to impart the dispositions that enable American children to succeed in college and careers. According to this story, politicians, policymakers, corporate executives and parents agree that kids need more grit.

The person who has arguably done more than anyone else to elevate the concept of grit in academic and popular conversations is Angela Duckworth, professor at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In her new book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she explains the concept of grit and how people can cultivate it in themselves and others.

According to Duckworth, grit is the ability to overcome any obstacle in pursuit of a long-term project: ‘To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times and rise eight.’ Duckworth names musicians, athletes, coaches, academics and business people who succeed because of grit. Her book will be a boon for policymakers who want schools to inculcate and measure grit.

There is a time and place for grit. However, praising grit as such makes no sense because it can often lead to stupid or mean behaviour. Duckworth’s book is filled with gritty people doing things that they, perhaps, shouldn’t.

Take Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology and Duckworth’s graduate school mentor. In a 1967 article, Seligman and his co-author describe a series of experiments on dogs. The first day, the dogs are placed in a harness and administered electrical shocks. One group can stop the shocks if they press their nose against a panel, and the other group cannot. The next day, all of the dogs are placed in a shuttle box and again administered shocks that the dogs can stop by jumping over a barrier. Most of the dogs who could stop the shocks the first day jumped over the barrier, while most of the dogs who suffered inescapable shock did not try, though a few did. Duckworth reflects upon this story and her own challenges in a college course in neurobiology. She decides that she passed the course because she would ‘be like the few dogs who, despite recent memories of uncontrollable pain, held fast to hope’. Duckworth would be like one of the dogs that got up and kept fighting.

At no point, however, does Duckworth express concern that many of the animals in Seligman’s study died or became ill shortly thereafter. Nor does she note that the CIA may have employed the theory of ‘learned helplessness’ to perform enhanced interrogation, regardless of Seligman’s stated opposition to torture. Duckworth acknowledges the possibility that there might be ‘grit villains’ but dismisses this concern because ‘there are many more gritty heroes’. There is no reason to assume this, and it oversimplifies the moral universe to maintain that one has to be a ‘grit villain’ to thoughtlessly harm people.

A second grit paragon in Duckworth’s book is Pete Carroll, the Super Bowl-winning coach of the Seattle Seahawks American football team. Carroll has created a culture of grit where assistant coaches chant: ‘No whining. No complaining. No excuses.’ She also commends Seahawk defensive back Earl Thomas for playing with ‘marvellous intensity’.

Duckworth has apparently not read any of the articles or seen any of the movies or television programmes detailing the long-term harm caused by playing professional football. President Barack Obama, among others, has said that he would not want a son, if he had one, to play football. Duckworth might have talked with football players who suffer from traumatic brain injuries.

Another role model, for Duckworth, is Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase. Dimon’s alma mater prep school has the motto of ‘grytte’, and Duckworth attributes JPMorgan Chase’s success to the grit of its leader: ‘In the 2008 financial crisis, Jamie steered his bank to safety, and while other banks collapsed entirely, JPMorgan Chase somehow turned a $5 billion profit.’ There is no basis for the word ‘somehow’ in this sentence. The Troubled Asset Relief Program provided JPMorgan Chase with $25 billion in 2008. In general, neither Duckworth nor the protagonists in her book dwell upon the political conditions that enable or thwart individual success.

Duckworth gives many more troublesome examples. The CEO of Cinnabon who never reflects on how she contributes to the obesity epidemic in the US. The Spelling Bee champs who don’t love to read. The West Point cadets who have to endure a borderline-hazing initiation rite called Beast.

Why don’t these people ever stop to think about what they are doing? We should not celebrate the fact that ‘paragons of grit don’t swap compasses’, as Duckworth puts it in her book. That might signal a moral failing on their part. The opposite of grit, often enough, is thinking, wondering, asking questions, and refusing to push a boulder up a hill.

Right now, many Americans want the next generation to be gritty. Already, school districts in California are using modified versions of Duckworth’s Grit Survey to hold schools and teachers accountable for how well children demonstrate ‘self-management skills’. Duckworth herself opposes grading schools on grit because the measurement tools are unreliable. But that stance overlooks the larger problem of how a grit culture contributes to an authoritarian politics, one where leaders expect the masses to stay on task.

Democracy requires active citizens who think for themselves and, often enough, challenge authority. Consider, for example, what kind of people participated in the Boston Tea Party, the Seneca Falls Convention, the March on Washington, or the present-day test-refusal movement. In each of these cases, ordinary people demand a say in how they are governed. Duckworth celebrates educational models such as Beast at West Point that weed out people who don’t obey orders. That is a disastrous model for education in a democracy. US schools ought to protect dreamers, inventors, rebels and entrepreneurs – not crush them in the name of grit."
grit  democracy  nicholastampio  angeladuckworth  marinseligman  positivepsychology  psychology  petecarroll  jamiedimon  americanfootball  jpmorganchase  2016 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Limits of “Grit” - The New Yorker
"For children, the situation has grown worse as we’ve slackened our efforts to fight poverty. In 1966, when Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives were a major national priority, the poverty rate among American children was eighteen per cent. Now it is twenty-two per cent. If we suffer from a grit deficiency in this country, it shows up in our unwillingness to face what is obviously true—that poverty is the real cause of failing schools.

In this context, grit appears as a new hope. As the federal programs stalled, psychologists, neuroscientists, pediatricians, education reformers, and journalists began looking at the lives of children in a different way. Their central finding: non-cognitive skills play just as great a role as talent and native intelligence (I.Q.) in the academic and social success of children, and maybe even a greater role. In brief, we are obsessed with talent, but we should also be obsessed with effort. Duckworth is both benefitting from this line of thought and expanding it herself. The finding about non-cognitive skills is being treated as a revelation, and maybe it should be; among other things, it opens possible avenues for action. Could cultivating grit and other character traits be the cure, the silver bullet that ends low performance?"



"Now, there’s something very odd about this list. There’s nothing in it about honesty or courage; nothing about integrity, kindliness, responsibility for others. The list is innocent of ethics, any notion of moral development, any mention of the behaviors by which character has traditionally been marked. Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth would seem to be preparing children for personal success only—doing well at school, getting into college, getting a job, especially a corporate job where such docility as is suggested by these approved traits (gratitude?) would be much appreciated by managers. Putting it politically, the “character” inculcated in students by Levin, Randolph, and Duckworth is perfectly suited to producing corporate drones in a capitalist economy. Putting it morally and existentially, the list is timid and empty. The creativity and wildness that were once our grace to imagine as part of human existence would be extinguished by strict adherence to these instrumentalist guidelines."



"Not just Duckworth’s research but the entire process feels tautological: we will decide what elements of “character” are essential to success, and we will inculcate these attributes in children, measuring and grading the children accordingly, and shutting down, as collateral damage, many other attributes of character and many children as well. Among other things, we will give up the sentimental notion that one of the cardinal functions of education is to bring out the individual nature of every child.

Can so narrow an ideal of character flourish in a society as abundantly and variously gifted as our own? Duckworth’s view of life is devoted exclusively to doing, at the expense of being. She seems indifferent to originality or creativity or even simple thoughtfulness. We must all gear up, for grit is a cause, an imp of force. “At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.” Through much of “Grit,” she gives the impression that quitting any activity before achieving mastery is a cop-out. (“How many of us vow to knit sweaters for all our friends but only manage half a sleeve before putting down the needles? Ditto for home vegetable gardens, compost bins, and diets.”) But what is the value of these projects? Surely some things are more worth pursuing than others. If grit mania really flowers, one can imagine a mass of grimly determined people exhausting themselves and everyone around them with obsessional devotion to semi-worthless tasks—a race of American squares, anxious, compulsive, and constrained. They can never try hard enough.

Duckworth’s single-mindedness could pose something of a danger to the literal-minded. Young people who stick to their obsessions could wind up out on a limb, without a market for their skills. Spelling ability is nice, if somewhat less useful than, say, the ability to make a mixed drink—a Negroni, a Tom Collins. But what do you do with it? Are the thirteen-year-old champion spellers going to go through life spelling out difficult words to astonished listeners? I realize, of course, that persistence in childhood may pay off years later in some unrelated activity. But I’m an owlish enough parent to insist that the champion spellers might have spent their time reading something good—or interacting with other kids. And what if a child has only moderate talent for her particular passion? Mike Egan, a former member of the United States Marine Band, wrote a letter to the Times Book Review in response to Judith Shulevitz’s review of Duckworth’s book. “Anyone who would tell a child that the only thing standing between him or her and world-class achievement is sufficient work,” Egan wrote, “ought to be jailed for child abuse.”

Duckworth not only ignores the actual market for skills and talents, she barely acknowledges that success has more than a casual relation to family income. After all, few of us can stick to a passion year after year that doesn’t pay off—not without serious support. Speaking for myself, the most important element in my social capital as an upper-middle-class New York guy was, indeed, capital—my parents carried me for a number of years as I fumbled my way to a career as a journalist and critic. Did I have grit? I suppose so, but their support made persistence possible.

After many examples of success, Duckworth announces a theory: “Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.” It’s hardly E=mc2. It’s hardly a theory at all—it’s more like a pop way of formalizing commonplace observation and single-mindedness. Compare Duckworth’s book in this respect with Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” Gladwell also traced the backgrounds of extraordinarily accomplished people—the computer geniuses Bill Gates and Bill Joy, business tycoons, top lawyers in New York, and so on. And Gladwell discovered that, yes, his world-beaters devoted years to learning and to practice: ten thousand hours, he says, is the rough amount of time it takes for talented people to become masters.

Yet, if perseverance is central to Gladwell’s outliers, it’s hardly the sole reason for their success. Family background, opportunity, culture, landing at the right place at the right time, the over-all state of the economy—all these elements, operating at once, allow some talented people to do much better than other talented people. Gladwell provides the history and context of successful lives. Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success of its human reality, and her single-minded theory may explain very little. Is there any good football team, for instance, that doesn’t believe in endless practice, endurance, overcoming pain and exhaustion? All professional football teams train hard, so grit can’t be the necessary explanation for the Seahawks’ success. Pete Carroll and his coaches must be bringing other qualities, other strategies, to the field. Observing those special qualities is where actual understanding might begin."
grit  2016  angeladuckworth  race  class  luck  perseverance  daviddenby  education  mastery  practice  kipp  character  classism  elitism  obsessions  malcolmgladwell  serendipity  mikeegan  judithshulevitz  capital  privilege  success  effort  talent  skill  achievement  history  culture  society  edreform  nep  pisa  testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  socialscience  paultough  children  schools  poverty  eq  neuroscience  jackshonkoff  martinseligman  learnedoptimism  depression  pessimism  optimism  davelevin  dominicrandolph  honesty  courage  integrity  kindliness  kindness  samuelabrams 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The Problem With Grit - Learning Deeply - Education Week
"In recent years, Angela Duckworth's work around "grit" has been widely taken up in school reform circles as a way of thinking about building students "non-cognitive skills," which are presumably critical for later life success.

As with any concept that gains popularity, there have been detractors. The most prominent critique is that an emphasis on grit is a way of "blaming the victim"--rather than take up larger questions of social, economic, and racial justice, if only the most disadvantaged kids were a little "grittier" they could make it in life. I am sympathetic to this critique, but I also understand why schools and parents would want to focus on the variables they can control, and thus see building students' abilities to persevere and respond to adversity as critical in their success.

Today I want to raise a different sort of critique, one which has actionable consequences for schools that are interested in work around grit. And that is that a focus on grit is taking a heavily impoverished view of human motivation; in the long run, most people do not persevere at things because they are good at persevering, they persevere because they find things that are worth investing in. The implication for schools is that they should spend less time trying to boost students' grit, and more time trying to think about how their offerings could help students develop purpose and passion.

One good starting point for this discussion is Benjamin Bloom's 1985 book, Developing Talent in Young People. Bloom retrospectively studied people who by their early twenties had achieved considerable success in their fields--Carnegie Hall pianists, Olympic swimmers, among other fields. In a recent talk at Harvard, Duckworth cited this study as an example of the role of grit in producing exceptional practice. But the book actually tells a much more ecological story of how these people developed: the swimmers, for example, began by playing in the pool when they were little, then they became part of local swim clubs and swim teams, then somewhere between 8 and 12 their identities shifted from "I'm someone who swims" to "I'm a swimmer," then there was a long period of deliberate practice, a shift from local coaches to regional and eventual national coaches, and finally another period of play, this time at a much more sophisticated level.

You can see in this trajectory a mix of formal and informal learning, individual fortitude, and becoming part of a community of practice. And, for most of these folks, as is true for many who have become real experts in a domain, intrinsic motivation and identity as someone who cares about the domain is more important than sheer stick-to-it-iveness; and success and increasing mastery provides its own reward which in turn motivates more effort and engagement. Boiling that down to "grit" seems certainly reductionist and potentially highly misleading, in that the implications of the grit argument would be more about boosting perseverance, whereas the more holistic view would show how institutional environments can and should be shaped to create opportunities for growth and mastery.

Relatedly, if you spend a lot of time in classrooms, you will see why national surveys continue to report that 70 percent of high school students see themselves as bored or disengaged. Many classes are terribly unengaging places, with lots of worksheets and little connection to an authentic purpose. The places where many of these schools seem most alive are actually in their extracurriculars--in plays, musical performances, student newspapers--where students have the opportunity to connect to a real domain, where there are opportunities for repetition and practice, but where it is linked to an adult world that students want to emulate and join. The best disciplinary classes have the same characteristics--students are learning how to be historians, thinking like mathematicians, doing real world projects--but these are relatively few and far between. There are two ways to see this situation: 1) that students in most contemporary classes should increase their grit and perseverance; or 2) that many classes need to be made more interesting and engaging places that are more connected to authentic purposes. While some might subscribe to the eat-your-broccoli theory of school reform, I tend to think that, in the long run, schools will be more successful if they are places that students would actually want to attend.

While grit gets all the play in school reform circles, it is not actually the leading theory of motivation among psychologists. The most well-known scholarship on motivation is actually Edward Deci and Richard Ryan's "self-determination theory," which synthesized decades of research to argue that people are fundamentally seeking autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and that they thrive in environments that enable them to maximize these qualities. Research on (and experience with) adolescents also suggests that they are particularly developmentally primed to explore their individual identities (autonomy), take on roles where they can assume responsibility (competence), and have opportunities to connect and work with others (relatedness).

Most high schools are organized in ways that run directly against these needs: students are expected to sit passively, assimilate the thinking of others, work individually, and are rarely given opportunities to take significant responsibility either for others or for their own learning. Not surprisingly, some of the schools that are most known for "deeper learning" in the Hewlett Foundation networks and elsewhere feature heavy doses of project- or problem-based methods, stances that create opportunities for students to exercise autonomy, develop competence, and work within communities of practice.

One interesting wrinkle of self-determination theory is that it does not rely exclusively on intrinsic motivation. The theory acknowledges that as people set goals they are seeking to pursue, or work in fields in which they are developing competence and capacity, there will frequently be tasks that are not intrinsically enjoyable but are necessary as part of the larger goal. Thus to say that schooling needs to create more opportunities for authentic engagement and opportunities for students to grow towards mastery is not to deny the reality that there are some basic things to be learned and some portion of this learning will be tedious and dull. But the key, as was true for the practice of the Olympic swimmers or Carnegie Hall pianists, is that the learner is willing to accept this tradeoff as necessary for a larger objective which s/he does feel is worth achieving.

Pushing grit is the easy way out. It not only enables us to bypass harder conversations about structural inequalities, it also frees us from thinking harder about whether basic elements of the "grammar" of schooling need to be rethought. Young people show grit all the time - they pick themselves up after losses on the playing field, retake the stage after flubbing their lines, continue to search for love after having their hearts broken. What these experiences have in common is that there is something they are seeking, something that they are hoping to attain. Our goal should be to organize schooling in ways that similarly promote the kind of purpose and meaning that will sustain students' commitment when the going gets tough."
grit  jalmehta  2015  education  schools  angeladuckworth  benjaminbloom  perseverance  curriculum  fortitude  practice  motivation  psychology  mastery  growth  edwarddeci  richardryan  self-determination  self-determinationtheory  autonomy  competence  relatedness  responsibility  deschooling  unschooling  projectbasedlearning 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The perils of “Growth Mindset” education: Why we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system - Salon.com
"Having spent a few decades watching one idea after another light up the night sky and then flame out — in the field of education and in the culture at large — I realize this pattern often has less to do with the original (promising) idea than with the way it has been oversimplified and poorly implemented. Thus, I initially thought it was unfair to blame Dweck for wince-worthy attempts to sell her growth mindset as a panacea and to give it a conservative spin. Perhaps her message had been distorted by the sort of people who love to complain about grade inflation, trophies for showing up, and the inflated self-esteem of “these kids today.” In the late 1990s, for example, right-wing media personality John Stossel snapped up a paper of Dweck’s about praise, portraying it as an overdue endorsement of the value of old-fashioned toil — just what was needed in an era of “protecting kids from failure.” Their scores stink but they feel good about themselves anyway — and here’s a study that proves “excellence comes from effort”!

This sort of attack on spoiled kids and permissive (or excessive) parenting is nothing new — and most of its claims dissolve on close inspection. Alas, Dweck not only has failed to speak out against, or distance herself from, this tendentious use of her ideas but has put a similar spin on them herself. She has allied herself with gritmeister Angela Duckworth and made Stossel-like pronouncements about the underappreciated value of hard work and the perils of making things too easy for kids, pronouncements that wouldn’t be out of place at the Republican National Convention or in a small-town Sunday sermon. Indeed, Dweck has endorsed a larger conservative narrative, claiming that “the self-esteem movement led parents to think they could hand their children self-esteem on a silver platter by telling them how smart and talented they are.” (Of course, most purveyors of that narrative would be just as contemptuous of praising kids for how hard they’d tried, which is what Dweck recommends.)

Moreover, as far as I can tell, she has never criticized a fix-the-kid, ignore-the-structure mentality or raised concerns about the “bunch o’ facts” traditionalism in schools. Along with many other education critics, I’d argue that the appropriate student response to much of what’s assigned isn’t “By golly, with enough effort, I can do this!” but “Why the hell should anyone have to do this?” Dweck, like Duckworth, is conspicuously absent from the ranks of those critics.

It isn’t entirely coincidental that someone who is basically telling us that attitudes matter more than structures, or that persistence is a good in itself, has also bought into a conservative social critique. But why have so many educators who don’t share that sensibility endorsed a focus on mindset (or grit) whose premises and implications they’d likely find troubling on reflection?

I’m not suggesting we go back to promoting an innate, fixed, “entity” theory of intelligence and talent, which, as Dweck points out, can leave people feeling helpless and inclined to give up. But the real alternative to that isn’t a different attitude about oneself; it’s a willingness to go beyond individual attitudes, to realize that no mindset is a magic elixir that can dissolve the toxicity of structural arrangements. Until those arrangements have been changed, mindset will get you only so far. And too much focus on mindset discourages us from making such changes."
alfiekohn  grit  motivation  education  growthmindset  caroldweck  angeladuckworth  parenting  children  schools  fads  praise  effort 
august 2015 by robertogreco
I Swear: On “Grit,” Adult Hypocrisy, and Privilege | the becoming radical
"If we accept that “grit” includes “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (such as achieving more education), I find the above details about Duckworth more evidence of the adult hypocrisy I experienced while growing up. Is her cavalier attitude and profanity any different than the attitude she is condemning among teens?

So my concerns are not personal, or personal attacks—because Duckworth is certainly not alone in her good intentions behind “grit” research or practices.

And my concerns are grounded in Paul Gorski’s scholarship in which he shares his own self-reflection, as have I, as I continue to do. Gorski explains:
Unfortunately, my experience and a growing body of scholarship on intercultural education and related fields (such as multicultural education, intercultural communication, anti-bias education, and so on) reveal a troubling trend: despite overwhelmingly good intentions, most of what passes for intercultural education practice, particularly in the US, accentuates rather than undermines existing social and political hierarchies (Aikman 1997; Diaz-Rico 1998; Gorski 2006; Hidalgo, Chávez-Chávez, and Ramage 1996; Jackson 2003; Lustig 1997; Nieto 2000, 1995; Schick and St. Denis 2005; Sleeter 1991; Ulichny 1996). (p. 516)

Further, I remain guided in my criticism of “grit” by Gorski’s questions:
The questions are plenty: do we advocate and practice intercultural education so long as it does not disturb the existing sociopolitical order?; so long as it does not require us to problematize our own privilege?; so long as we can celebrate diversity, meanwhile excusing ourselves from the messy work of social reconstruction?

Can we practice an intercultural education that does not insist first and foremost on social reconstruction for equity and justice without rendering ourselves complicit to existing inequity and injustice? In other words, if we are not battling explicitly against the prevailing social order with intercultural education, are we not, by inaction, supporting it?

Such questions cannot be answered through a simple review of teaching and learning theory or an assessment of educational programs. Instead, they oblige all of us who would call ourselves intercultural educators to re-examine the philosophies, motivations, and world views that underlie our consciousnesses and work. Because the most destructive thing we can do is to disenfranchise people in the name of intercultural education. (p. 516)

I am not, then, being a petty prude. (Want to listen to my CAKE or Ben Folds/Five mix CDs?)

I am not stooping to ad hominem, and this has nothing to do with who I like or dislike (as I don’t know Duckworth, and the other key “grit” advocates). I suspect, actually, they are good and descent people dedicated to doing the right thing.

This is about the hypocrisy of adult demands aided by the technocratic use of “grit” as a veneer for privilege.

I remain convinced that the appeal of the “grit” narrative is mostly a failure to do what Gorski notes above: “Such questions…oblige all of us who would call ourselves intercultural educators to re-examine the philosophies, motivations, and world views that underlie our consciousnesses and work.”

So when an award-winning researcher tells me poor and minority children simply lack “grit” or a New York Times pundit explains the moral shortcomings of the poor, I hear Ben Folds singing, “Let me tell y’all what it’s like/ Being male, middle class and white/ It’s a bitch”—except Folds in his profanity is being satirical and his work is mostly harmless entertainment."
plthomas  grit  angeladuckworth  2015  education  inequality  technocracy  paulthomas 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Problem with 'Grit,' KIPP, and Character-Based Education | The New Republic
"The second problem with the new character education is that it unwittingly promotes an amoral and careerist “looking out for number one” point-of-view. Never before has character education been so completely untethered from morals, values, and ethics. From the inception of our public school system in the 1840s and 1850s, character education has revolved around religious and civic virtues. Steeped in Protestantism and republicanism, the key virtues taught during the nineteenth-century were piety, industry, kindness, honesty, thrift, and patriotism. During the Progressive era, character education concentrated on the twin ideas of citizenship and the “common good.” As an influential 1918 report on “moral values” put it, character education “makes for a better America by helping its pupils to make themselves better persons.” In the 1960s and 1970s, meanwhile, character education focused on justice and working through thorny moral dilemmas.

Today’s grit and self-control are basically industry and temperance in the guise of psychological constructs rather than moral imperatives. Why is this distinction important? While it takes grit and self-control to be a successful heart surgeon, the same could be said about a suicide bomber. When your character education scheme fails to distinguish between doctors and terrorists, heroes and villains, it would appear to have a basic flaw. Following the KIPP growth card protocol, Bernie Madoff’s character point average, for instance, would be stellar. He was, by most accounts, an extremely hard working, charming, wildly optimistic man.

This underscores how genuinely innovative performance-based character education is with respect to eschewing values, especially religiously and civically inspired values such as honesty and service. Kindness is spotlighted in the KIPP motto (“Work Hard, Be Nice”), but it is conspicuously absent from KIPP’s official list of seven character strengths. It is not an accident that KIPP’s list of character strengths does not include items with clear moral overtones. As Levin told Tough: “The thing that I think is great about the character-strength approach is that it is fundamentally devoid of value judgment. The inevitable problem with the values-and-ethics approach is that you get into, well, whose values? Whose ethics?”

The decision to avoid overt references to values was no doubt intended to avoid the potential minefields of the “culture wars.” The trouble is that values have a way of intruding on territory that is meant to be value-free. What happens when your list of character strengths excludes empathy, justice, and service? The basic principle of individual achievement rushes to the forefront, as if filling a vacuum. This is “tiger mother” territory here—a place where the “vulgar sense” of success prevails. Life is narrowed into an endless competition for money, status, and the next merit badge."



"If you click on the video at the top of the “Character” page on the KIPP website, you can watch a poignant clip of a parent describing how she wants her kids “to succeed” and to “have a better life.” KIPP and other similar schools are betting that the new character education will help students succeed academically and professionally. It is a risky bet, given how little we know about teaching character. It is also a bet without precedent, as there has never been a character education program so relentlessly focused on individual achievement and “objective accomplishments.” Gone are any traditional concerns with good and evil or citizenship and the commonweal. Gone, too, the impetus to bring youngsters into the fold of a community that is larger than themselves—a hopelessly outdated sentiment, according to the new character education evangelists. Virtue is no longer its own reward."
education  grit  kipp  2014  jeffreyaaronsnyder  psychology  angeladuckworth  virtue  kindness  ethics  values  schooling  schooliness  careerism  charactereducation  amorality  individualism  civics 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Should Schools Teach Personality? - NYTimes.com
"The focus on character, however, has encountered criticism. The education writer and speaker Alfie Kohn, for instance, argues that grit isn’t always helpful. In a Washington Post essay adapted from his new book, “The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and Parenting,” he writes that dogged persistence isn’t the best approach to every situation: “Even if you don’t crash and burn by staying the course, you may not fare nearly as well as if you had stopped, reassessed and tried something else.”

And, he said in an interview, an emphasis on children’s personalities could take attention away from problems with their schools. “Social psychologists for decades have identified a tendency to overestimate how important personality characteristics, motivation, individual values and the like tend to be relative to the importance of the structural characteristics of a situation,” he said. “We tend to think people just need to try harder, or have a better attitude,” but “this tends to miss the boat. What really matters is various aspects of the system itself.”

Truly improving education in America will require “asking about the environment in which kids are placed, what kids are being asked to learn, how they’re being taught, what voice they have, if any, in the experience,” he said. “Every time we focus on personality variables, we are distracted again from addressing the systemic questions that matter.”

And in an essay at The New Republic, Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, an educational studies professor at Carleton College, contends that as currently espoused by KIPP, “character-based education is untethered from any conception of morality.” And, he says in an interview, he questions the value of looking at character traits outside a larger moral framework: “What’s the importance of teaching grit if you’re not teaching it in the context of civic education, the public good, social responsibility?” Teaching it without such context “becomes kind of a looking-out-for-number-one-type approach to education.”

As an example of a better way, he points to a school he came across in his research whose students started a community garden during World War I (gardening is also part of the curriculum at some schools today). Planting, growing and distributing food taught many of the same traits that character-education programs hope to instill, he said, “but it’s all richly integrated into a task that has genuine purpose and that makes the students think beyond themselves.”"
education  schools  personality  grit  angeladuckworth  annanorth  arthurporopat  kipp  character  teaching  learning  curriculum  psychology  motivationjeffreyaaronsnyder  morality  civics  socialresponsibility  publicgood  obedience  individualism  conscientiousness  diligence  duty  creativity  curiosity  schooling  schooliness  howweteach  alfiekohn  tomaschamorro-premuzic  2015 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Why Girls Get Better Grades Than Boys Do - The Atlantic
[My tweet: https://twitter.com/rogre/status/512741051941924864 "“Why Girls Get Better Grades Than Boys Do” http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/09/why-girls-get-better-grades-than-boys-do/380318/ … Missing: Conscientiousness or deference? Innate or conditioned?"]

"This self-discipline edge for girls carries into middle-school and beyond. In a 2006 landmark study, Martin Seligman and Angela Lee Duckworth found that middle-school girls edge out boys in overall self-discipline. This contributes greatly to their better grades across all subjects. They found that girls are more adept at “reading test instructions before proceeding to the questions,” “paying attention to a teacher rather than daydreaming,” “choosing homework over TV,” and “persisting on long-term assignments despite boredom and frustration.” These top cognitive scientists from the University of Pennsylvania also found that girls are apt to start their homework earlier in the day than boys and spend almost double the amount of time completing it. Girls’ grade point averages across all subjects were higher than those of boys, even in basic and advanced math—which, again, are seen as traditional strongholds of boys.

What Drs. Seligman and Duckworth label “self-discipline,” other researchers name “conscientiousness.” Or, a predisposition to plan ahead, set goals, and persist in the face of frustrations and setbacks. Conscientiousness is uniformly considered by social scientists to be an inborn personality trait that is not evenly distributed across all humans. In fact, a host of cross-cultural studies show that females tend to be more conscientious than males. One such study by Lindsay Reddington out of Columbia University even found that female college students are far more likely than males to jot down detailed notes in class, transcribe what professors say more accurately, and remember lecture content better. Arguably, boys’ less developed conscientiousness leaves them at a disadvantage in school settings where grades heavily weight good organizational skills alongside demonstrations of acquired knowledge.

These days, the whole school experience seems to play right into most girls’ strengths—and most boys’ weaknesses. Gone are the days when you could blow off a series of homework assignments throughout the semester but pull through with a respectable grade by cramming for and acing that all-important mid-term exam. Getting good grades today is far more about keeping up with and producing quality homework—not to mention handing it in on time.

Gwen Kenney-Benson, a psychology professor at Allegheny College, a liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania, says that girls succeed over boys in school because they tend to be more mastery-oriented in their schoolwork habits. They are more apt to plan ahead, set academic goals, and put effort into achieving those goals. They also are more likely than boys to feel intrinsically satisfied with the whole enterprise of organizing their work, and more invested in impressing themselves and their teachers with their efforts.

On the whole, boys approach schoolwork differently. They are more performance-oriented. Studying for and taking tests taps into their competitive instincts. For many boys, tests are quests that get their hearts pounding. Doing well on them is a public demonstration of excellence and an occasion for a high-five. In contrast, Kenney-Benson and some fellow academics provide evidence that the stress many girls experience in test situations can artificially lower their performance, giving a false reading of their true abilities. These researchers arrive at the following overarching conclusion: “The testing situation may underestimate girls’ abilities, but the classroom may underestimate boys’ abilities.”

It is easy to for boys to feel alienated in an environment where homework and organization skills account for so much of their grades. But the educational tide may be turning in small ways that give boys more of a fighting chance. An example of this is what occurred several years ago at Ellis Middle School, in Austin, Minnesota. Teachers realized that a sizable chunk of kids who aced tests trundled along each year getting C’s, D’s, and F’s. At the same time, about 10 percent of the students who consistently obtained A’s and B’s did poorly on important tests. Grading policies were revamped and school officials smartly decided to furnish kids with two separate grades each semester. One grade was given for good work habits and citizenship, which they called a “life skills grade.” A “knowledge grade” was given based on average scores across important tests. Tests could be retaken at any point in the semester, provided a student was up to date on homework.

Staff at Ellis Middle School also stopped factoring homework into a kid’s grade. Homework was framed as practice for tests. Incomplete or tardy assignments were noted but didn’t lower a kid’s knowledge grade. The whole enterprise of severely downgrading kids for such transgressions as occasionally being late to class, blurting out answers, doodling instead of taking notes, having a messy backpack, poking the kid in front, or forgetting to have parents sign a permission slip for a class trip, was revamped.

This last point was of particular interest to me. On countless occasions, I have attended school meetings for boy clients of mine who are in an ADHD red-zone. I have learned to request a grade print-out in advance. Not uncommonly, there is a checkered history of radically different grades: A, A, A, B, B, F, F, A. When F grades and a resultant zero points are given for late or missing assignments, a student’s C grade does not reflect his academic performance. Since boys tend to be less conscientious than girls—more apt to space out and leave a completed assignment at home, more likely to fail to turn the page and complete the questions on the back—a distinct fairness issue comes into play when a boy’s occasional lapse results in a low grade. Sadly though, it appears that the overwhelming trend among teachers is to assign zero points for late work. In one survey by Conni Campbell, associate dean of the School of Education at Point Loma Nazarene University, 84 percent of teachers did just that.

Disaffected boys may also benefit from a boot camp on test-taking, time-management, and study habits. These core skills are not always picked up by osmosis in the classroom, or from diligent parents at home. Of course, addressing the learning gap between boys and girls will require parents, teachers and school administrators to talk more openly about the ways each gender approaches classroom learning—and that difference itself remains a tender topic."
gender  schools  boys  girls  education  homework  compliance  conscienciousness  angeladuckworth  2014  martinseligman  deference  authority  self-discipline  adhd  grades  grading  gwenkenney-benson  conditioning  goalsetting  persistence  lindsayreddington  connicampbell  disaffection  testtaking  timemanagement  studyhabits  learninggap  attention  distraction  academics  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  gendernorms  society  enricognaulati  assessment  standardization 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Actually, practice doesn’t always make perfect — new study - The Washington Post
"We’ve long been eager to believe that mastery of a skill is primarily the result of how much effort one has put in. Extensive practice “is probably the most reasonable explanation we have today not only for success in any line, but even for genius,” said the ur-behaviorist John B. Watson almost a century ago.

In the 1990s K. Anders Ericsson and a colleague at Florida State University reported data that seemed to confirm this view: What separates the expert from the amateur, a first-rate musician or chess player from a wannabe, isn’t talent; it’s thousands of hours of work. (Malcolm Gladwell, drawing from but misrepresenting Ericsson’s research — much to the latter’s dismay — announced the magic number was ten thousand hours.)

It’s daunting to imagine putting in that kind of commitment, but we’re comforted nonetheless by the idea that practice is the primary contributor to excellence. That’s true, I think, for three reasons:

1. Common sense: It seems obvious that the more time you spend trying to get better at something, the more proficient you’ll become. That’s why so many educators continue to invoke the old phrase “time on task,” which, in turn, drives demands for longer school days or years. Common sense, however, isn’t always correct. Researchers have found that only when “achievement” is defined as rote recall do we discover a strong, linear relationship with time. When the focus is on depth of understanding and sophisticated problem solving, time on task doesn’t predict outcome very well at all – either in reading or math.

2. Protestant work ethic: Many people simply don’t like the idea that someone could succeed without having paid his or her dues — or, conversely, that lots of deliberate practice might prove fruitless. Either of these possibilities threatens people’s belief in what social psychologists call a “just world.” This sensibility helps to explain why copious homework continues to be assigned despite dubious evidence that it provides any benefit (and zero evidence that it’s beneficial in elementary school): We just don’t want those kids goofing off, darn it — not in the evening and not even during the summer! Hence the recent enthusiasm for “grit,” which is basically a repackaging of age-old exhortations to stick with whatever you’ve been told to do. (Indeed, Ericsson collaborated with grit maven Angela Duckworth on a study of spelling bee champions.)

3. Nurture over nature: “Innate? Necessarily so!” is what we’ve heard for centuries. Given the tawdry history of biological reductionism, which usually manages to rationalize current arrangements of power as being due to the natural superiority of privileged groups, is it any wonder we remain leery of attributing success to inherited talent? It’s more egalitarian to declare that geniuses are made, not born. Indeed, that skepticism is bolstered by evidence (from Carol Dweck and others) indicating that students are more likely to embrace learning if they believe their performance results from effort, something under their control, rather than from a fixed level of intelligence that they either possess or lack.

*

For many of us, then, Ericsson’s conclusion has been deeply reassuring: Practice hard and you’ll do well. But along comes a brand-new meta-analysis, a statistical summary of 157 separate comparisons in 88 recent studies, that finds practice actually doesn’t play nearly as significant a role as we’d like to think.

“The evidence is quite clear that some people do reach an elite level of performance without copious practice, while other people fail to do so despite copious practice,” wrote Brooke Macnamara, David Hambrick, and Frederick Oswald in Psychological Science. In fact, they calculated that, overall, the amount of deliberate practice in which someone engages explains only 12 percent of the variance in the quality of performance. Which means 88 percent is explained by other factors."
grit  practice  2014  alfiekohn  angeladuckworth  kandersericsson  malcolmgladwell  workethic  nurture  caroldweck  brookemacnamara  davidhambrick  frederickoswald 
august 2014 by robertogreco
What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? - NYTimes.com
"…concerns about a character program…comprised only those kind of nice-guy values. “The danger w/ character is if you just revert to these general terms—respect, honesty, tolerance—it seems really vague. If I stand in front of kids & just say, ‘It’s really important for you to respect each other,’…they glaze over. But if you say, ‘Well, actually you need to exhibit self-control,’ or you explain the value of social intelligence—this will help you collaborate more effectively —…it seems…more tangible.”…

“Sure, a trait can backfire. Too much grit…you start to lose ability to have empathy for other people. If you’re so gritty that you don’t understand why everyone’s complaining about how hard things are, because nothing’s hard for you, because you’re Mr. Grit, you’re going to have a hard time being kind. Even love—being too loving might make you the kind of person who can get played…character is something you have to be careful about…strengths can become character weaknesses.”
education  character  tcsnmy  lcproject  teaching  learning  grading  books  success  failure  kipp  schools  workethic  kindness  empathy  dominicrandolph  davidlevin  michaelfeinberg  martinseligman  christopherpeterson  2011  psychology  longterm  grit  gritscale  angeladuckworth  iq  wholecandidatescore  grades  self-control  socialintelligence  gratitude  curiosity  optimism  zest  gpa  cpa  character-pointaverage  middle-classvalues  self-regulation  interpersonal  love  humor  beauty  bravery  citizenship  fairness  integrity  wisdom 
september 2011 by robertogreco

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